Nicknames: Don, Newk
Teams: Newark Eagles (1944-1945), minor leagues (1946-1949, 1961), major leagues (1949-1951, 1954-1960), military service (1952-1953), Japanese League (1962)
Height: 6' 4'' Weight: 220
Born: June 14, 1926, Madison, New Jersey
As a nineteen-year-old fastball pitcher for the Newark Eagles, Don registered an 8-3 record in 1945. A left-handed swinger, the big youngster was often used as a pinch hitter. The previous year, in his first season in the Negro Leagues, he was winless against 3 losses, but his progress and raw talent were noted by the Brooklyn Dodger organization.
Later signed by Brooklyn, he enjoyed a great ten-year major-league career, including pennants with the Dodgers in 1949, 1955, and 1956. After registering seasons of exactly 20 wins in 1951 and 1955, his best year was 1956, when his 27-7 record earned him both the Cy Young Award and the National League's MVP honor. The big right-hander finished his major-league career with a 149-90 record and a 3.56 ERA.
After first signing with the Dodger organization, he played two seasons in the New England League with Nashua, and fashioned seasons of 14-4 and 19-6, batting .311 with power in his first season and leading the league in victories his second season. After a 17-6 record at Montreal in the International League sandwiched between two winters in Vargas, Venezuela (1-3) and Maranao, Cuba (1-6), he earned his first trip to the parent club, registering a 17-8 season after joining the Dodgers in 1949. Two more outstanding seasons (19-11 and 20-9) preceded his loss of two prime seasons to military service, after which he returned to form, with a 20-5 record in 1955 preperatory to his sensational MVP season in 1956.
In the aftermath of his career season, his effectiveness dissipated as he pitched successively with the transplanted Dodgers in Los Angeles, the Cincinnati Reds, and the Cleveland Indians before dropping out of the major leagues after the 1960 season. In 1961 he pitched with Spokane in the Pacific Coast League, barely breaking .500 with a 9-8 record. In 1962 he closed out his professional baseball career as an outfielder-first baseman, hammering 12 home runs and batting .262 with the Chunichi Dragons in Japan.
Baseball Career Highlights:
Posting an 8-3 record as a Newark Eagle, the talented 19-year old Newcombe was signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1949.
As the first outstanding black pitcher in Major League history, Newcombe is the only player to have won the Rookie of the Year, Most Valuable Player and Cy Young awards. In his first year as a Dodger, he immediately helped the team win the pennant. He shut out the Reds 3-0 in his May 22 debut and finished 17-8, with a 3.17 ERA, and a league-leading five shutouts. Winning the pennant by a single game over the Cardinals, Newcombe pitched 32 consecutive scoreless innings. He was named "Rookie of the Year" by the Baseball Writers' Association of America.
Newcombe's record was 19-11 the following year. After two years in the military, Newcombe's level of play dropped in 1954 (9-8, 4.55), but he regained his form in 1955 with (20-5, 3.20). His batting average was .359 with 7 home runs (a National League record for pitchers), including two two home run games. Posting a stellar 27-7 record in 1956, he registered five shutouts and a 3.06 ERA. He was named the National League's MVP and recipient of the first-ever Cy Young Award, then given to only one pitcher each year (rather than one from each league). In addition, Newcombe had a lifetime .271 average (the ninth best ever among pitchers).
Awards, Honors, Titles, Championships,
• All Star - 1949-1951, 1955
• National League Pennant Champions (Brooklyn Dodgers) -
• National League's "Most Valuable Player" - 1956
• First-ever Cy Young Award Recipient - 1956
NLBM Legacy 2000 Players' Reunion Alumni Book, Kansas City Missouri: Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, Inc., 2000.
James A. Riley, The Biographical Encyclopedia of the Negro Baseball Leagues, New York: Carroll & Graf Publishers, Inc., 1994.